If there is one thing that can plunge a Division I men’s water polo team into total chaos, it’s a loss to Loyola Marymount.
Fortunately, the UCSB men’s water polo squad avoided such a fate Friday afternoon at Campus Pool, emerging victorious over the Lions, 8-5. The Gauchos followed the LMU win with a crucial 8-4 conference victory against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rival Irvine on Saturday.
Santa Barbara put on a defensive clinic over the weekend, allowing a total of only nine goals. The seventh-ranked Gauchos’ goals-against-average improved to a miniscule 5.57 after seven games. The Gauchos also upped their record to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the elite MPSF. UCSB Head Coach Joe O’Brien expected his team to be exhausted after a week of intense workouts.
“We trained hard last week,” O’Brien said. “Last week was the power phase of our workout schedule. So whatever we do in the pool is compounded by the fact that we are working extra hard in the weight room.”
Perhaps the Gauchos should consider extending the “power phase,” as O’Brien’s concerns were put to rest during the first quarter against LMU. UCSB wrested control of the match with three straight goals, two by senior All-American driver Joey Pacelli.
Second quarter goals by Tamas Szego and Kevin Witt brought LMU to within one. The Lions’ run was cut short, however, following goals by upstart freshman utility Brian Alexander and two-meter set Patrick Treman to close out the first half.
Junior two-meter defender Anthony Borasi opened the second half with a man-up goal, putting the Gauchos up 6-2. The teams traded goals from there to an 8-5 finish. Borasi was plenty excited after the game.
“The score made the game look closer than it really was,” Borasi said “We took control early with solid defense and a few easy goals. We were confident that we would win.”
Saturday’s match versus Irvine proved a different story. Faced with the possibility of losing its third conference match of the season, UCSB was determined to stave off the aggressive Anteaters.
“Our main concern against Irvine was the shallow end of our pool,” O’Brien said. “It is always a major factor of any game we play here, and it shouldn’t be.”
The shallow end was indeed a factor, with the Anteaters’ only two goals of the first half punched in by senior two-meter set John Dorfi. The Gauchos were only able to score two of their own, and the half ended in a tie, 2-2.
Much to the dismay of UCI, the Gauchos dominated the third quarter with some of their best water polo of the season. They scored four unanswered goals, each of which brought thunderous applause from a capacity Campus Pool crowd.
“We made some adjustments during halftime, and the result was a great second half. Every guy was a key contributor,” O’Brien said.
As usual, senior goalie Trevor Spence was the impregnable wall behind the Gaucho defense. He finished the weekend with 22 saves, the largest count for any goalie on any weekend this season for Santa Barbara. Senior utility Tom Coughlan was especially satisfied after the weekend.
“I am pleased with the results,” Coughlan said. “We are battle-tested and should pose a significant threat to any team we face.”[DN1]
The Gauchos will certainly have the opportunity to walk the walk this weekend at the Nor-Cal Tournament, where their first-round draw is none other than LMU. The Gauchos are sure to have their hands full again. A Lion tamed is by no means a Lion declawed, and UCSB can attest to that.
[DN1]Is quote acceptable? See me if it isn’t. Thanks. EA